Materials for Natural Living | Living North

Materials for Natural Living


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Protecting our planet is a hot topic. Acclaimed stylist Selina Lake’s new book, Natural Living Style, explores inspirational ideas for a beautiful – and sustainable – home

When creating a living space, the materials we choose to furnish and decorate it with are not only key to the overall style but, of course, will also have an impact on the environment. Opting for items made from sustainable, ethically made and environmentally benign materials will put less strain on the planet. We are all aware of the damaging effects of excess plastic consumption, climate change, deforestation and pollution, and know that it makes sense to choose eco-friendly alternatives wherever possible. Environmental issues are currently at the forefront of people’s minds and it’s not just a trend – it’s becoming something of a movement. I want to live in a lovely home, but I also want to be a conscious consumer and to source furnishings that are ethically produced with less or little impact on the environment. I’m also trying to produce less waste by reducing what I consume, reusing whatever I can and sending as little as possible to landfill. This chapter is all about which materials to choose for natural and environmentally friendly living, and how to style them within different areas of your home.

ECO-FRIENDLY MATERIALS: bamboo, cork, sisal & rattan
Fibres harvested from trees, plants and shrubs are among the most sustainable and eco-friendly materials available. Bamboo canes are strong and abundant, rattan comes from a naturally renewable palm and fibres from the agave plant are turned into strong sisal for baskets, rugs and carpets. Bamboo cane furniture like that shown on the previous page was all the rage in the 1970s and has made a comeback in recent years. It’s a hardwearing material, so ideal for furniture and a good replacement for plastic. Look out for second-hand bamboo furniture – items can be given a new life in your home or garden. Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree and is buoyant, waterproof and flexible – also a brilliant substitute for plastic. Often used in the fabric of a building for insulation, it has a lovely dappled finish, making it a good choice for wall cladding, furniture and tableware. Its amazing properties of insulation prevent heat loss so it is a very green material.

RECYCLABLE MATERIALS: wood, glass & metal
Wood is a sustainable material but can’t be easily recycled, which is why it’s important to reuse wooden objects until they become rickety or fall apart (at which point they can be moved outside to biodegrade). It is renewable, but deforestation is a huge environmental issue, so if you are buying new wood, look for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified wood to protect the world’s forests. Glass is made from all-natural, sustainable raw materials. It is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without any loss in quality. It can also be reused in the home – just wash out food jars and repurpose them for storing dry goods or toiletries. Metal is a desirable and valuable material that, like glass, can be recycled repeatedly without altering its properties. It requires much less energy to recycle metal than it does to extract it in the first place, so it’s important to recycle all food and drink containers made from aluminium or steel. As it’s strong and durable, metal components can also be salvaged and reused in the home – think of old sewing machine tables with decorative trestles or planters made from traditional metal dolly tubs and buckets.

ECO-FRIENDLY MATERIALS: paint & lime plaster
Natural walls have a subtle finish that brings warmth to any room. One eco-friendly wall treatment is tadelakt, a traditional Moroccan surfacing technique that can be used to create bathtubs, sinks, walls, ceilings and even floors. It is made from lime plaster, which is polished, then treated with soap to make it waterproof and create a lustrous, seamless finish. Raw plaster walls are a current trend – avoid gypsum plaster or cement and go for breathable eco plaster for a green alternative that naturally regulates moisture in the home. Bauwerk is a paint company producing lime paint made from clay, minerals and natural pigments. It has a beautiful, understated finish and doesn’t give off toxic fumes. Farrow & Ball are another of my go-to paint suppliers – they produce waterbased, low-VOC paints in a range of hard-to-choose-between colours.

Natural Living Style by Selina Lake (Ryland Peters & Small, £19.99) Photography by Rachel Whiting

Published in: May 2019

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